A weblog for members of the Canadian Cartographic Association and other individuals interested in all things cartographic

Mapping as a Party

Who would have known that mapmaking can be so much fun? As part of the OpenStreetMap initiative in the U. K. , mapmaking and data collectors will be descending on Manchester - dubbed Mapchester - for the weekend of May 13th and 14th. The idea is get enough people and their GPS units together and map the entire city - sort of like a geocaching event but with a purpose other than fun. The resultant data will be free to view, edit and use. For more information, visit the wiki page on the event or the Futuresonic website.

By way of Media Arts Education

Update: If you can’t make it out for Mapchester, head out to the Isle of Wight a weekend earlier where mapmaking and data collectors will be mapping the entire island.


Cartography is One Year Old

Friday April 28th marked the one year anniversary of this blog. It started inauspiciously enough and was meant to be another forum for members of the Canadian Cartographic Association to communicate with each other and keep abreast of new ideas and technologies in the field. It was meant to be a collective effort with members contributing items of interest but it didn’t quite turn out that way. For good or ill, this blog has primarily been an individual effort - in fact, all but one of the entries has been written by yours truly. The only other person to contribute is still a mystery to me.

Nevertheless, this solo effort has been, to date, most enjoyable. There are a number of things I have learned as a result of my blogging, some of which I will share now:
  1. Blogging can be time consuming. I generally spend 30 to 90 minutes a day searching the Internet and writing blog entries. Sometimes that time is fruitful, resulting in a few interesting posts. Sometimes it’s not. There never seems to be a guarantee.
  2. Blogging requires perserverance and consistency. About 3 months after this blog’s inception I realized that if it was to go anywhere and be even remotely useful, I would need to post regularly, almost every day. Weekends are generally an exception and holidays have become a big challenge to regular posting (most camping sites do not have Internet access - thankfully).
  3. The geospatial blogging community is fairly small. Often I feel that I am covering territory that is too similar to someone else’s blog - the Map Room, for instance - but so far there still seems to be enough room for all of us. Nevertheless, I persist in blogging with the idea that it is always good to have another perspective on the field.
  4. There is never any way of telling whether a post will be popular or not. To date, my posting on Soviet Topographic Maps has been the most successful in terms of the number of visitors it has brought (18,000 in one day alone). At other times I have passed over items only to find them blogged about elesewhere.
  5. Most people seem to surf from work. At least, most of the blog’s vistors tend to stop by between 8 AM and 6 PM EST weekdays.
For those of you who like to see some statistics, here is a chart of the number of visitors over the past year, broken out on a weekly basis:

I hope the coming year proves to be as interesting and informative as the past year of blogging has been to me. I am always open to new ideas.

On behalf of the Canadian Cartographic Association (who are always looking for new members), thanks!

Paul Heersink
44.2889ºN, 78.3380ºW


Between Friends

A former prime minister of Canada once said that living next ot the United States “is like sleeping with an elephant. No matter how friendly and even-tempered is the beast, if I can call it that, one is affected by every twitch and grunt.” It is also sometimes hard to get noticed by the elephant and more often than not Canadians (rightly or wrongly) feel that Americans take them for granted.

In an effort to let Americans know how much we mean to them and how much they mean to us, the Canadian embassy in the Washington, D. C. has published two 30 x 22.75 inch maps showing the inter-relationship of the two countries. It is available in two separate pdfs - one showing Canada (4.18 MB), the other showing the United States (6.39 MB). Both maps are filled with little snippets of information (“Canada was the Peach State’s largest trading parnter in 2004” or "Over half of the oil and gas produced in Alberta is exported to the U. S.”), attractive and worth a read.


SketchUp Now Free

Google recently acquired SketchUp, a three dimensional drawing program that works well with Google Earth. The program is now free for personal use. Though not strictly a mapping tool, SketchUp could become useful in developing three dimensional models for use in Google Earth. Expect to see a sudden flurry of kmz files depicting buildings around the world.


Measuring Urban Sprawl

The Neptis Foundation, a Toronto-based organization that focuses on urban development, has utilized satellite and air photo data to create a 8.7 billion data cell image depciting land development in the United States. According to a paper entitled “Causes of Sprawl: A Portrait form Space” that will be appearing the Quarterly Journal of Economics, Pittsburgh is more sprawling than Miami and recent development in Boston is more scattered than in Los Angeles.

“The authors merged high-altitude photos from 1976 with satellite images from 1992 (the most recent available) to create a grid of 8.7 billion 30-metre by 30-metre cells that tracks land use changes nationwide,” says a University of Toronto press release. “The authors also investigated why some cities are more sprawling than others. They found that a city's climate, topography and access to groundwater account for 25 per cent of the nationwide variation. When the climate is temperate, people spread out to have more space to enjoy the weather. Hilly places see more scattered development as people avoid the costs of building on hillsides -- but mountains act as a barrier and lead to more compact development. Places with easy access to groundwater see more scattered development, since people can supply remote houses with water by drilling inexpensive wells rather than paying for water lines.”
Read a version of the paper in pdf format. An 11 x 17 version of the land development image of the United States is also available as are other, more detailed images of various American cities.


Open Data in Canada

Canadians have now joined the open data access bandwagon and have started their own website dedicated to the cause. CivicAccess.ca “believes all levels of government should make civic information and data accessible at no cost in open formats to their citizens.” The site is a wiki - that is, it is maintained and updated by its members collectively. There is a listing of resources broken down by province or territory. Included in the list are some sources of freely accessible data. The list is pretty sparse at this point but will probably grow as this initiative gets off the ground.

By way of Mapping Hacks.


Refining Density Data

The European Space Agency, together with Geoville, a geomatics company based in Europe, has developed a model that utilizes remote sensing imagery to refine population density data. Generally, postal codes have been used to provide density data but this tends to results in homogenous looking areas (i.e. the entire area has the same density).

GeoVille first employed this technique in Vienna, Austria, with a population of roughly 1.5 million, and illustrated a complex and heterogeneous settlement structure from low density single family neighbourhoods to modern high-rise buildings and large industrial and commercial areas.” Population density can be determined down to 50 m blocks in urban areas and 100 m blocks in rural areas.

Read the ESA news release or visit the very brief project page on the Geoville website.


Phishing and Crimeware Map

Phishing is a an attempt to get Internet users to divulge personal information that can be used to access personal financial accounts. A user might be an official-looking email that appears to come from their bank telling them that they need to log in to confirm information in order to ensure that their account is safe. Those who know, know that banks will not do this and the link that is provided directly the user to a web page that might look exactly like their own bank’s webpage.

The Anti-Phishing Working Group has a world map that displays the source of phishing and crimeware (malicious code that redirects users to sites that weren’t intending to visit) attacks by the country source. Not surprisingly, most of the attacks originate in the United States (the U. S. probably being the biggest country in terms of the number of Internet users). The map is updated “15 minutes after discovery” but doesn’t use a logical colour scheme or breakdown in categories (e.g. 4.69 - 51.98% seems like a very large and unweildy category). A dropdown list allows the user to refine the timespan of attacks to be displayed.


The New World Explorers?

Back in January the recently discovered Chinese map of the world was making the news. The idea of the Chinese beating Columbus to the New World is certainly an interesting and unusual one and one that is drawing battlelines in the field of history. Maps play a key role in determining the validity of a claim and are frequently at the centre of such a debate. The Map Room points to a website that seeks to debunk Gavin Menzies’ hypothesis of the Chinese making the rounds in the Westenr Hemisphere - and other such unusual ideas. On the other side of the issue is the website New World Voyages that has a number of presentations defending Menzies’ claim but also suggests that Marco Polo made it to North America.

I am not a map historian nor am I even well-versed in the controversey that surrounds the 1418 map. The idea is unusual enough to be appealing and interesting to ponder from a “what if?” persepctive. Whether or not it is true, I will leave to the experts to decide.


Google Maps Update

This is all over the Internet already (see Google Maps Mania, El mapomóvil, Cartotalk, Ogle Earth, Tanto) but it looks like Google Maps has added detailed western European street data to its offerings. As c. spanring points out, the address finder does not yet seem to work. Countires now offering detailed road level data include Canada, United States, Germany, Czech, Netherlands, Luxembourg, Belgium, Italy, France, Spain, Portugal, Switzerland, United Kingdom, Ireland, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Poland, Finland and Japan (and all those small European states tucked in between). Other countries such as Greece have spotty detailed coverage. Other countries such as Slovakia show some road network but do not seem to go down to street level detail.

Interestingly, there seems to be quite a bit of difference in what is offered in Japan (roads as well as contour lines and detailed drainage) than in the rest of the world. Road symbology also varies considerably between the the United Kingdom and Europe.


The Bohemian Index

Dorothy Gambrell defines a bohemian as “someone who believes they cannot be defined by their job,” who devotes their life to something other than the accumulation of wealth and possessions. Gambrell defines this roughly as an inverse relationship between education and money. By this reasoning, a bohemian is someone who is well educated but does not earn much money. Taking this approach and U. S. Census, Gambrell has mapped the results for New York City in a number of maps that are anything but bohemian. Take a look at her results here and the accompanying article in The Morning News. It would be interesting to hear if someone has acutally done some ground-truthing of the results.

By way of Moon River


Nuclear Maps

The French newspaper Le Monde has a couple of nice looking nuclear maps - one that focuses on the nuclear program in India and one that takes a more global look. The maps are in Flash and in French and somewhat interactive.

By way of Lasting News which also has a links to the Carnegie Endowment’s Indian nuclear maps (in pdf format; these aren’t as nice).

See also previous blog entries on nuclear maps (1, 2)


Mapping the Marvel Comics World

Truly, anything can be mapped . . . . Sean Kleefield and “the Beetle” have taken the initiative to create map of the world, according to the events the occur in Marvel Comics. An ongoing project along the lines of the Simpson’s Springfield map blogged about earlier, the Marvel Atlas Project presents a map of the world with links to more detailed maps such as the Avenger’s Mansion or Hades. The maps are in black and white and feature the classic comic font but are not truly interactive: navigating to more detailed maps requires clicking on a list of links.

By way of atlas(t)


When is a Knock-off not a Knock-off?

From today’s Calgary Sun, this story:

Making a cheap knock-off of a Calgary map book has cost a city businessman $8,000.

That’s the fine provincial court Judge Bruce Fraser handed Commodore Allen after ruling he infringed the copyright of map maker David Sherlock.

Fraser, in a written ruling, rejected Allen’s claim his map wasn’t simply a cheaper version of Sherlock’s original work.

Fraser acknowledged Allen made changes in Sherlock's map book, but said they weren't sufficient to make it more than a ripoff.

“Many of the more significant changes were purely cosmetic,” said Fraser.

Sherlock complained to police after Allen published AMI Calgary Street Atlas in 2002, and sold 10,000 copies to Certigard of Calgary.
My question is: if there were a sufficient number of changes, would Allen’s map book be considered a new and legitimate product? If so, what would be a sufficient number of changes?



UNOSAT is a United Nations initiative that seeks to provide satellite imagery and mapping products to the humanitarian community. To access satellite imagery users need to be part of “an active member organization”- that is, an organization that is part of the U. N. system or one that is working in accordance to U. N. policies.

Some maps are created and made freely available, usually in response to a natural disaster or humanitarian crisis. Recent examples include maps of the area around Mount Merapi, a currently smouldering volcano in Indonesia, piracy around the Horn of Africa and maps of Lorestan Province in Iran, site of a recent earthquake.


Green Maps

grist magazine has a short story about and interview with Wendy Brawer, one of the founders of the Green Map System. The Green Map System started in New York about 14 years ago when Wendy and her coworkers started putting together a map of New York City for the 1992 Rio Earth Summit. Since then the number of cities that have green maps has expanded to 236.

From the Green Maps website:
The Green Map System (GMS) is a locally adaptable, globally shared framework for environmental mapmaking. It invites design teams of all ages and backgrounds to illuminate the connections between natural and human environments by mapping their local urban or rural community. Using GMS's shared visual language--a collaboratively designed set of Icons representing the different kinds of green sites and cultural resources--Mapmakers are independently producing unique, regionally flavored images that fulfill local needs, yet are globally connected.
Brawer and her colleagues have recently come out with the fifth edition of the New York version of the Green Map, available for download in pdf format. Also check out the Green Map Atlas that is not so much a collection of maps than a description of the processes and challenges faced by the various mapmakers around the world in putting their green map together.


Another Mapping Site Review

PCWorld Canada has a brief set of reviews of the 4 of the online mapping sites: Windows LiveLocal, Yahoo! Maps, Google Local and Mapquest. LiveLocal gets tops rating with Mapquest coming in last. The ratings numbers that were provided, however, ranged from 82 to 90 which suggests that there isn’t muchg that separates them.

See also previous online mapping reviews and Cartogrphy’s own set of reviews from last year.


Global Cities

Every major city likes to see itself as a world class city. But what is the definition of such an entity? The Globalization and World Class Study Group and Network has taken it upon itself to set the standards and define which cities make it to the top tier. Based on a city’s score in the fields of “accountancy, advertising, banking/finance and law,” GaWC comes up with ratings for 55 cities. Arguably the standards are limited in scope and doesn’t include factors such as cultural or artistic influence or technological innovation. Nevertheless, the list that results in unsurprising. Cities such as London, New York, Paris andTokyo are on the top of the list followed by Chicago, Frankfurt, Milan, Simgapore, Los Angeles and others. Check out the map to see if your city makes the grade.

More interesting than the actual list is the mapping and spaital analysis of these global cities. GaWC has produced numerous papers and studies looking at various aspects of what makes a world class city but from a cartographic perspective the most interesting ones are those with, of course, maps. The Atlas of Hinterworlds looks at the top 123 cities and displays each city’s connectivitiy to all the other cities by way of a cartogram. The results are simple, attractive and easy to read.
Also included on the site are 3 dimensional globes that display connectivity lines, and some other experimental maps that aren’t quite as successful.



Global-i is an interactive globe that displays socio-economic data. It is a Java-based web application developed by Infomagnet and displays various data layers by country. The usual socio-economic factors are included (GDP, life expectancy, literacy, energy production) as well as some that are not always easy to find (imports or exports by country, military personnel). Users can zoom in or out, spin the globe and determine how data should be displayed (to an extent). Even though the company suggests that Global-i acts “more like a game than a financial analysis application” navigating about the globe and the graphics used to display the information are limited. Creating an account with Global-i costs at least ₤35 for a one year subscription; this allows access to more complete datasets.


Cartography Expert Dies at 97

Walter Ristow, a cartography expert who supposedly never got lost, died at the age of 97 on April 3, 2005. Ristow was th headof the map divisions of the New York Public Library and later the U. S. Library of Congress. Both the Washington Post and the New York Times (free registration required) have stories on the man.

From the Washington Post story:
Two years after joining the New York Public Library’s map division in 1937, he went to Germany to explore his ancestral homeland of Pomerania. On the train, he encountered German soldiers mobilizing for the invasion of Poland that launched World War II.

Ristow retreated to London, then boarded one of the final passenger ships to cross the Atlantic in 1939. That year, in the map division's annual report, he wrote: “Emasculated and disheartened Czechoslovakia becomes part of the German Reich! The World is in turmoil and we must have maps!”

One day after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, Ristow was asked to furnish maps of Japan to U.S. authorities. For almost three years, while retaining his position at the New York library, he analyzed maps for the Office of Military Intelligence.
He was an avid map collector and even saved hand-drawn maps that people drew to provide directions to their homes.

By way of Cartotalk.


Online Mapping Reviews

TechCrunch has an all too brief review of various mapping sites, including Ask Maps, Google Maps, Yahoo! Maps, Mapquest and Windows LiveLocal. Incldued is a convenient table that indicates what features are available for each the sites. From the summary:
“Mapquest is the most popular mapping service but lags on features and usability. Google is the most notable and has a ubiquitous API. Windows Live Local dazzles with its creative views and features but falls short of the others in direction functionality. Mapquest offers a number of features but still is missing satellite imagery, which makes it trail the competitors in core functionality. Ask Maps is a worthy competitor but had the highest error rate of the group.

“Overall, Yahoo Maps was by far the best application tested. Its fast Flash interface, multipoint directions, live traffic information, and easy send-to-mobile feature make it the hands down winner. It also features the most robust API options.”


Road Mapping

The Map Room points to the New Yorker’s article of road mapping, particularly as it is done these days (a la Mapquest and Navteq et al). It is quite a bit like earlier stories on the adventures of Navteq frontline staff (see 1, 2 and 3) but is better written and provides some background on road mapping in the past 100 years. It is a very long article - what would expect of the New Yorker.

The writer, Nick Paumgarten, suggests that current day online mapping services are seeking to provide directions to travellers, rather than, specifically maps. “Before there were maps, as we understand them, there were itineraries, sequences of customized directions. Maps, to say nothing of the ability to read them, were the stuff of progress. To see and depict the landscape in such abstract terms, as you might from above, requires a measure of sophistication that the mere itinerary, with its blindered view of the world, does not. So it’s curious that the current geographic revolution is in many ways a reversion to primitive techniques: it is a high-tech gloss on the lowest-tech approach.”

Paumgarten talks to Jim Ackerman of the Smith Center for the History of Cartography who suggests that there is always the tension between providing a list of features or places in the order that one would encounter them (for example, old railways map or portolan charts) and the bird’s eye (or God’s eye view as he calls it) perspective of the world.
“‘The tension between these two modes of navigating goes back to these maps,’ he said. ‘The itinerary represents space as one experiences it on the ground. A map like this has that element, but it starts to introduce the notion that you can conceive of it as a larger unit. It’s a God’s-eye view, which puts you in charge of navigating through space. This is the origin of the notion that you can pull yourself away from the world and see it from above.’

“The irony is that centuries later, when we have perfected the God’s-eye map and become conversant with it, we have, in the thrall of technology, turned back to the ancient way: the itinerary and the strip map. OnStar and MapQuest zero in on the information that’s relevant to reaching your destination. “They close down your choices and give you a route,” Akerman said.”
It is interesting to note how road mapping has come to dominate the entire mapping enterprise. “Over time,” writes Paumgarten, “as the systems grow more sophisticated, the digital maps will come to look more and more like the world as it’s perceived through the windshield of an automobile. Bodies of water, for example, are often given short shrift, because one cannot drive on them. Navteq takes note of “water polygons,” as they’re called, mainly because people are accustomed to seeing them on their maps. “Maps look very strange if they don’t contain those things,” [Salahuddin] Khan [senior vice president of Navteq] said. ‘There’s an almost paradigmatic expectation on the part of consumers to see maps that look like maps.’ It will be interesting to see how long this expectation survives.”

Read the entire New Yorker article.


Ongoing Mapping Wars

Forbes has a short story about the ongoing battle among the various online mapping sites, particularly Google Maps, Yahoo! Maps and Mapquest. Surprisingly, according to a ComScore Media Metrix survey, Mapquest still pulls in more visitors that Google and Yahoo! combined. All in all, traffic to such websites has increased by about 20% over the past year and though the major players are interested in making money from their sites, currently the focus seems to be on “keeping users at their portals.” Not surprisingly, one of the big beneficiaries of this ongoing battle of mapping upmanship are the data providers such as Navteq and Digital Globe.


Population, Density & Area Tool

The Hive Group has a tool that helps users visualize population, area and density by country. This is not a map but a very interesting and interactive Java application that puts all of the countries in the world into a tree structure. Users can specify how countries are group and how they are represented.

By way of Very Spatial and Digg


Journeys of the Imagination

The Boston Public Library’s Norman B. Levanthal Map Center is hosting an exhibit of maps, atlases and globes entitled Journeys of the Imagination. The exhibit runs from 21 March 2006 to 18 August 2006. Admission is free.

From the website:
Beginning with the Medieval European world view of three continents (Europe, Africa, and Asia) centered on Jerusalem utilizing T-O diagrams and late 15 th century world maps from some of the earliest printed books, the display will proceed to illustrate how Europeans integrated the concept of a new continent (America) during the 16 th and 17 th centuries, and slowly adopted the concept of Australia and Antarctica in the 18 th and 19 th centuries. There will be a variety of thematic map topics and map projections, demonstrating what data is selected for display and how geographical dimensions are transferred from a sphere to a flat piece of paper, often producing unusual compilations or distortions that support strongly held biases or differing world views.”
An online exhibit will be available in May 2006.

By way of Cartotalk.


Mapping Ship Locations

Sailwf.info has a live tracking map of ship locations throughout the world. Using Mapserver and the data collected through the World Meterological Organization’s Voluntary Observing Ship, it plots the locations of numerous ocean-going vessels. Clicking on the world map allows the user to zoom in to a specific part of the globe and provides a listing of the ships in that neighbourhood. A link foloowing each ship identifier brings up a map showing the course that ship has followed over the past 10 days; this can be altered to longer or shorter periods. Also available are temperatures, wind spoeed and direction, air pressure and tidal information. Searches can also be completed using a ship's call sign or by entering geographic coordinates.

The maps are unspectacular but effective. Neither is the navigation about the site always clear or intuitive. It is doubtful whether all ships worldwide are tracked; nevertheless, an interesting site with ever-changing information.

By way of Great Map.


Cartographer Not the Best Job in America

In my opinion, this is news as anyone who is one knows that being a cartographer is the best job around. However, CNNMoney has released the results of a survey of 166 jobs and found that, in terms of compensation, cartographers and photgrammatists rank 83rd, smack in the middle. The average income from such jobs (which also includes GIS professionals) is $55,634 (US). 75% of the positions in this field earn more than $45,000 (US); 25% earn more than $63,000 (US). It is expected that there will be annual increase of about 520 jobs in this field for the next 10 years - a 15% growth.

The survey was conducted by using the Bureau of Labor Statistics to determine which jobs that require at least a Bachelor’s degree will have an above average increase in job prospects over the next 10 years. Salary.com statistics were used to determine compensation levels.


Confessions of a Mapmaker

Philippe Rekacewicz is the geographer-cartographer at Le Monde Diplomatique, an online / paper monthly that focuses on international affairs and development issues, has written a piece entitled “Confessions of a Mapmaker.” The article is available in both French and English, although a subscription is required. Those who are cartographers will view the article as more of a sharing of experience than as a confession to some of the hidden secrets of cartography.

He writes of seemingly innocuous items on a map - a name, a boundary - that can have a very different impact on different people. For instance “the name of the sea separating South Korea and Japan has been a source of friction for years. Korea calls it the East Sea, Japan the Sea of Japan . . . . To avoid trouble, and endless letters from embassies, cartographers often leave out the name altogether.” Maps, he goes on to say, “merely reveal what map-makers or their superiors want to show. They inevitably present a truncated, partial, even deliberately misleading picture of reality.”
“We map-makers must make a point of demolishing the illusion that there can be an official, universally accepted representation of the world’s political divisions. There is no such thing as the right map showing the approved version of a country. Finding the relevant form of cartographic expression is a constant challenge. Each approach has its own truth, backed by a rationale, but there are no rules nor is there a supreme authority to which to turn in search of easy answers. No one has the final word on what are only intellectual constructs, inspired by a culture, history and geography.”
Maps are also pictures and owe much to art. Cultural and environmental conditions may predispose a cartographer to use one colour over another.
“Look at maps of Africa produced in Europe and you will see they make considerable use of yellow ochre and dark green, to represent the continent’s dry dusty savannah and its dense equatorial forest. But it is apparent from a brief tour of the markets of Ouagadougou or Bamako that Africa’s true colours are much more vivid. A primary schoolteacher in Chad, obliged to use textbooks imported from France, once complained to me: ‘There is something wrong. The maps are so pallid. It’s almost as if they were sick.’”
Some of Rakewicz’s work is available for viewing on Le Monde Diplomatique’s website.


Yahoo! Maps has added satellite imagery to its online mapping service, In some ways it is an improvement over what Google Maps has to offer. The images are seamless and smooth, even when zoomed further out. In comparison, Google Maps satellite imagery often appears like a patched up quilt. However, even though according to O'Reilly Radar they’ve added 1 metre resultion imagery for the entire continental U. S., the imagery available for other areas seems to be lower than what Google Maps has to offer. As well, all of the imagery appears darker and seems to darken even more as the map is zoomed out - so much so that is it is often hard to discern what is being looked at (see image at right). Like Google Maps, there is also now a hybrid mapping feature where roads can be overlaid on a satellite image.

In sum: A nice feature but needs much improvement to become truly useable.

Update (13 April): The satellite images seemed to have been lightened and much improved.


Paleogeographic Maps

Dr. Ron Blakely of Northern Arizona University has a number of beautifully lavish maps of the paleogeography and the geologic evolution of North America. These are colourful and clear and the most detailed of any such maps freely available. The 41 maps are available in jpeg format and illustrate the appearance of North America over the past 500 million years. Outlines of state, provincial and national boundaries provide a useful reference point for each map.

Also available on his site are 20 or so global snapshots of the world over the past 600 million years. These are available in Mollewide, orthographic and geographic projections.

By way of BLDGBLOG who has a nice narrative to go along with the geologic evolution of North America.

Update: PerryGeo picked up on this post and turned the images into an animated sequence. Now the entire geological history of North America is available in a 30 second animated gif!


The Demise of the Paper Map

As mentioned earlier in this blog, Natural Resources Canada will be dicontinuing the printing of its popular topographic maps series and make the maps available in digital format through the Internet. John Dawson, director of Natural Resources Canada, suggests in a Capital News Online story that paper maps are an oboslete way of presenting geospatial information. “When you’re looking at over 14,000 map sheets at the scale of 1 to 50,000 to cover Canada, there’s no way we can keep that information, in a paper format, up to date.” Interactive web maps such as Google Earth have made it difficult for static paper maps to compete.

Brad Green of the World of Maps map store in Ottawa diagrees. Natural Resources Canada brags “about it as if it’s some move to embrace the digital revolution, but that's just a smokescreen. It’s just an excuse to eliminate a service.” Green is concerned that costs for a printed map will climb and remte, less popular areas will be difficult to find.

Contrast this story with one that appears in The Business Review. JIMAPCO, a map publisher in the Albany, New York area is “concluding that the products you get on the Internet, such as MapQuest, are helping to educate people about maps. So people who have never used a map before are inclined to check out something on MapQuest and it appears they are becoming acclimated to maps and going out and buying them.” (By way of All Points Blog)

Read the Captial News Online story and view images of the soon to be defunct warehouse.


The Pentagon's New Map

The Pentagon’s New Map, published in 2005, outlines Thomas Barnett’s theory on the U. S. approach to terrorism and the rest of the world. It is, understandably, not a book without controversey but to critically evaluate it here would be beyond the scope of this blog. Rather, it is enough to point out the centrepiece of the book, namely the map.

The map comes in a couple of downloadable versions and formats (low-res pdf, hi-res pdf and jpeg). Writes Barnett: “The maps on these pages show all United States military responses to global crises from 1990 to 2002. Notice that a pattern emerges. Any time American troops show up - be it combat, a battle group pulling up off the coast as a reminder, or a peacekeeping mission- it tends to be in a place that is relatively disconnected from the world, where globalization hasn’t taken root because of a repressive regime, abject poverty, or the lack of a robust legal system, it’s these places that incubate global terrorism. Draw a line around these military engagements and you’ve got what I call the Non-integrating Gap. Everything else is the Functioning Core. The goal of the new strategy is simple: Shrink the Gap. Don't contain it, shrink it.” Surprisingly North Korea does not fall within the “Non-integrating Gap.”

Read more of Barnett’s thoughts on his extensive self-promoting website.


Time Travel Maps

Tom Carden has put together a couple of interactive maps of the London Underground system that measures distance by the time of travel. Clicking on a station will alter either map to reflect the time it takes to travel to any other station. The first map moves the stations around; the second retains the geometry of the underground network and builds time contours around it. The first is probably more dramatic but the second is probably more usable. Both are Java applets.

By way of Great Map.


What's in a name?

In the history of Canada, the search for the Northwest Passage - a sea route through the Canadian north to the Orient - plays an important part. European explorers such as Henry Hudson, Martin Frobisher and John Franklin all risked their lives (and often lost) searching for this sea route. For many who have grown up in the Canadian school system, the name is almost mythic.

Now, according to the Edmonton Journal, the Canadian military has decided to start calling this fabled passage by the very unlyrical “Canadian Internal Waters.” The Canadian government argues that the Northwest Passage are internal waters, contrary to how most of the world views it. Until recently, there has been little interest in the passageway since it was frozen for most of the year. Global warming is changing that fact. According to the news article “recent research suggests that as the ice pack retreats from the western mouth of the passage it could become ice-free and open to shipping as soon as 2015.”

Regardless of how Michael Byers, professor at the University of British Columbia views it, the name change is hardly “imaginative.” I might agree with the Canadian government in considering the Northwest Passage as internal Canadian waters but the old name is far better sounding.


Design Resources

DesignEducation has a very lengthy listing of various online design resources. Included are links to various design-related blogs, illustration resources, Photoshop brushes and How-tos, font and clipart collections, and many design-related topics.



Cabspotting tracks the last four hours of taxi movements in San Fransisco. Taxis that are equipped with the proper GPS equipment leave a path indicating if they have a passenger or not. Even at 3:53 AM PST the map is still interesting to look at. The map is zoomable and pannable. As well, Also worth a look is a shortened time-lapse animation showing the movement of one cab throughout the day and cab speed. Similar to the animated map of courier movements posted earlier.

By way of BoingBoing.


Mapping the Blogosphere

Mapping the Internet is essentially the mapping of relationships. Though servers and ISPs may have a geographic location, it is the number of links or clicks between two sites that determines how “close” they are. Physical location hardly plays a role. New York has a posting on the linkages of the top 50 blogs, including a diagram (hardly a map) available in pdf format. Sadly but not surprisingly, Cartography did not make the cut.

However, TouchGraph provides a graphic interactive representation of a blog’s (or any other website’s) neighbourhood. Not surprisingly, Cartography’s neighbours include The Map Room, GeoCarta and Google Maps Mania. As with any neighbourhood, there are also a few surprises (what are all those z word definitions doing across the street?). The TouchGraph Java diagram seems a bit flaky: repeated visits seems to result in frozen pages.

By way of information aesthetics and others.


Tim Hortons Trash Map

Tim Hortons, a coffee and donut shop of particular fondness to Canadians, is currently having its Roll Up the Rim promotional event in which patrons roll up the rim of their coffee cups to discover if they’ve won a prize. Someone has taken the initiative to photograph a few of the used cups and plot their locations on a Google Map. Considering the tussle between a couple of families in the Montreal area over a used cup that turned out to be a winner, it might be worth someone’s while to track these ones down.

Almost as ubiquitous as its trash are the number of store locations in Canada. Peterborough, Ontario, for example, has about 1 store for every 7,000 residents.

All things can be mapped . . . provided someone takes the time to do so.
By way of Great Map.


Language Differences

Similar to what has been posted about earlier regarding what fizzy drinks are called, Colleen Mullin has posted a number of maps of the United States asking participants to indicate what words they would use in a specific sentence. The results are sparse but interesting: there seems to be a definite regional breakdown in the United States (south - northeast / midwest / west). These maps tend to be more successful with larger amounts of data.

Thanks Matt.


LiDAR Movie of London

The folks at Digitally Distributed Environments are currently busy putting together a LiDAR model of the city of London. LiDAR or Light Detection and Ranging is used to detect elevation changes and is suited to creating a quick and up to date 3 dimensional models, including man-made structures. DDE has put together a movie of parts of the London model that look strangely molten and slightly other worldly.

DDE has also been busy putting together 3 dimension models of some London buildings (for example but there are many more) and geo-referenced historical maps (1 and 2) for use in Google Earth.


Road Data Collection Again

Yet another story on road data collection by Navteq and/or TeleAtlas. Interestingly, according to hte story, Navteq got its start “in 1985 with the idea of producing map kiosks in hotel lobbies and convenience stores where travelers would insert a dollar and get written directions.” It is also interesting to note that “in a typical day in the field, the modern-day cartographer will drive up to 250 miles on San Diego County streets in a Ford Escape equipped with a digital camera inside the windshield and a cone-shaped satellite roof antenna. He electronically charts nearly everything flitting by but the manhole covers.” Is this cartography or data collection?

See also previous postings on the topic: February 22,2006 and October 3, 2005. Why does this seem to be such a popular news story?


Cartographic Milestones

(Apologies for the sparse number of postings over thge past few weeks. Other commitments and a lack of a consistent Internet connection have prevented me from posting more than I have. )

The Gallery of Data Visualization from Michael Friendly and Daniel J. Denis of York University in Toronto has a number of interesting pages on its site, including a number on the milestones in the history of thematic cartography, statistical graphics and data visualization starting with a town map dating back to 6200 B. C. and running to 2000. Included are lniks to images and descriptive text. Cartographic milestones seem somewhat spotty but the list of milestones is broken out mostly by century and is easy to scan. An interesting set of links to both well-known and not so well-known data visualization examples. The written descriptions / historical narrative is also available in a pdf format, complete with active links to the images being discussed.


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